Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Taksim square and Galata, Istanbul

So since I'm such a frugal person (some may say cheap asshole, but I prefer frugal), I stalked flight fare aggregator websites (like Kayak) day and night looking for the cheapest flight to Indonesia possible. I hit pay dirt when I found one for $940. The problem was that it was a VERY long itinerary...24 hours of flight time, and a total trip time of 50 hours. Basically, I would leave Boston friday afternoon, and arrive at Jakarta on sunday evening. But while most people would say hell no to that, I took it as a bonus. Why? Because my flight included a 13-hour layover in Istanbul...and I was definitely not planning to spend those 13 hours in the airport.

When I arrived in Istanbul, I left my big bag in storage, grabbed my daypack, my nalgene, and my camera, and walked out of the airport like a boss. After realizing that taking the metro into the city was cheaper than the shuttle (again...frugal), I just took a quick look at the subway map, hopped on the the first train, and hoped to wing it. I was heading to Taksim square, the center of the took me a while to get my bearings when I got off the metro, but a simple "Taksim square, nerede?" to a stranger (thanks, Ema), as well as a few hand motions, got me on the right track.

A banner hanging from a government building in Taksim square...a bit ominous if you ask me.

Afterwards, I headed to Caddesi Istiklal, a very elegant street lined with shops, cafes, restaurants, bookstores, you name it. There were musicians and artists on the streets husking for money, and dondurma sellers everywhere. Dondurma is turkish-style ice-cream, with a similar flavor but a very different, gummy texture.

Nearby you can find Galata, a different district noted by its very bohemian character. There are arts and crafts everywhere, as well as a variety of musical instrument stores. The most obvious feature however, is the gigantic medieval stone tower in the middle of it.

One of the central features of Istanbul is the presence of  imperial mosques all along the city. Once you cross the golden horn (the inlet of the bosphorus river that divides the Asian and European sides of the city) from the north to the south, this becomes very clear. The crossing itself is interesting however, as there are dozens of fishermen hanging their poles off the side of the bridge and ferries constantly making rounds around the bosphorus.

And kids jumping off the bridge into the river, apparently. They know what's up.

Next time: mosque-hopping in Istanbul

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